KSU professor involved in Spencer grant project to study math teacher preparation practices

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jul 29, 2020

Marrielle Myers
Marrielle Myers

Kennesaw State University mathematics educator and researcher Marrielle Myers is among a collaborative team of researchers awarded a $500,000 grant from the Spencer Foundation, a leading supporter of education research.

Myers, associate professor of mathematics education in the Bagwell College of Education and one of the co-principal investigators on the grant, will partner with researchers from the University of Illinois and the University of Pittsburgh to examine how to help teachers become better advocates for their students.

“Teachers are facing many challenges due to the power dynamics that permeates all teaching. It is especially challenging in mathematics since it is a subject area that is seen as neutral, culture-free, and universal,” Myers said. “However, our future teachers must be able to understand the ways in which culture is deeply intertwined with mathematics teaching and learning.”

The project will specifically help prepare pre-service teachers in navigating the complexities of policies and pedagogy associated with mathematics education to ensure equitable access and outcomes for their students.

“Teachers may encounter moment-to-moment decisions that seem routine but can critically impact their students’ academic trajectory in the future,” explained Myers. “Examples include whom to call upon during class; when to move on to new material; which problems to assign for homework; what will appear on assessments; how to interact with family members at parent-teacher conferences; and determining what evidence counts to refer students for special education or gifted services.”

Myers said that it is important for pre-service teachers to develop the political knowledge and acumen of moving through the world, holding themselves and those they interact with accountable to a set of principles that brings forth more of the learners’ experiences, shaped by their diverse backgrounds, cultures and languages, into the teaching and learning process of mathematics.

The researchers will follow pre-service teachers at the elementary, middle and high school levels, based on their area of expertise, through their methods courses, student teaching experiences, and first two years of full-time teaching. At all three institutions, participants will engage in activities specifically designed to help them build their political knowledge for teaching mathematics such that pre-service teachers can teach mathematics in humanizing ways.

“My long-term research goals are to prepare teachers to teach math in meaningful ways,” said Myers. “To achieve this goal, there must be a radical shift in teacher preparation programs and current classrooms, with all stakeholders learning to work together in the best interest of the learners.”

The multi-year grant from the Spencer Foundation’s Large Research Grants on Education Program was awarded to the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with a subaward to Kennesaw State and the University of Pittsburgh. This is the first time that KSU has been part of a grant awarded by this highly competitive funding program, the latest initiative launched last year by the Spencer Foundation.

Awards between $125,000-$500,000 are given for field-initiated projects addressing the most pressing questions and compelling opportunities in education that may also have a lasting impact on policy-making, practice, or educational discourse, according to the Spencer Foundation website.

– Joëlle Walls

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.